Brahms: Lieder

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms Lieder
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901926
Graphologists will revel in the cover to this CD’s booklet: a page from the manuscript of Brahms’s ‘Wiegenlied’. The writing is fast, fluid, mobile – and so, delightfully so, is the singing and playing on this generous recital of 31 of Brahms’s most delectable songs. So often singers weigh Brahms down with too much indulgence. From Roger Vignoles’s first lightfilled notes in ‘Bei mir sind meine Gedanken’, with Bernarda Fink’s smiling, wide-eyed voice, these performers make it sound as though the ink is still wet on Brahms’s manuscripts. For most of the Lieder, especially those which could almost be folksongs – this is how it should be. Only occasionally do I miss a darkening of the voice for those songs of night, or perhaps a fleeting sense of even darker passions.

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The real skill of Fink and Vignoles is to capture that fusion of physical and emotional movement within a song – and to recreate it with real spontaneity. They enjoy the swallows’ flight echoing the wing-beat of the heart in ‘Das Mädchen spricht’, and the hammering of both heart and anvil in ‘Der Schmied’. Vignoles is everywhere perfectly attuned to both the evocation of a landscape and to the ever-engaging qualities of Fink’s mezzo. Hilary Finch